Question over engineer's wages for mining company headed to the California Supreme Court

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 18, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — A group of engineers who sued a mining company for discrepancies in wages had a question for the California Supreme Court certified by a federal court.

U.S. Circuit Judges Raymond Fisher, Milan Smith Jr., and District Judge Elaine Bucklo, on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit, issued a 20-page order on Jan. 15, certifying the question in the lawsuit filed by engineers Leopoldo Mendoza, Jose Armando Cortes and Elviz Sanchez against Fonseca McElroy Grinding Inc. and Granite Rock Company.

"Is operating engineers’ offsite ‘mobilization work’—including the transportation to and from a public works site of roadwork grinding equipment—performed ‘in the execution of [a] contract for public work,’ Cal. Lab. Code § 1772, such that it entitles workers to ‘not less than the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the public work is performed’ pursuant to section 1771 of the California Labor Code?" is the question being sent to the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs worked for the defendants, doing grinding of asphalt roadbeds for paving roads. During certain times, the group had, among their duties, a practice called "mobilization," which consisted, per the order, of "loading milling machines, which w[ere] stored at [a] permanent yard or in offsite storage locations, onto a lowbed trailer; tying down or otherwise securing the heavy equipment onto the lowbed trailer; performing a light, brake, and fluid level check of a semi-truck used to transport the heavy equipment; driving a transport truck transporting the milling machine to a construction jobsite; and driving the transport truck transporting the milling machine back to [the] permanent yard."

After Fonseca McElroy was acquired by Granite Rock in 2014, the engineers claimed that their were paid below the prevailing wages for their jobs. All three sued the companies based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state labor laws.

The case now moves to the California Supreme Court.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Case number 17-15221

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